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Emma Gilmour was relieved simply to make the finish after a demanding but generally encouraging first foray into world championship rallying in Europe.

The 26 year-old Dunedin driver set a number of competitive special stage times in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy section of the three-day Rallye Deutschland. Unfortunately, her rally was also punctuated by a number of problems, including a driveshaft failure which almost led to what would have been a heart-breaking retirement on the final stage of the event.

A final result of 50th overall and seventh in class also reflected difficulties she faced earlier in the event. These included completing half of the opening day with steering damage on her Fiesta ST, having to stop and change a punctured tyre early on the second day, and losing time following a slower car on another stage later that day.

“It was very challenging but enjoyable at the same time,” said Gilmour, who is rallying in Europe with support from Castrol and Dream Drive Promotions. “A big learning curve is what I expected. We certainly had more than our fair share of issues during the event but we came through and drove every stage which is amazing.”

After a dry build-up, rain greeted competitors on the first leg of the rally.

Gilmour made a promising start, setting the fifth-fastest time in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy class on the second special stage. Then, on the first stage of afternoon, she aquaplaned off the road and into a barrier, damaging the steering of her car.

“I had to struggle with the wheels pointing different directions for the rest of the day’s stages,” she said. “It was quite interesting wrestling the car about, and I had to left foot brake to try and get it to turn in.”

She finished the day placed 52nd overall and sixth in class.

Although it was predominantly dry, leg two of the rally brought further drama, with a puncture on the day’s second stage.

“There was still twenty kilometers to go in the stage, so we had to stop to change it,” she said. “The jack was so slow to go back down that we couldn’t get it back into the car for ages.”

Gilmour was back on track in the afternoon, setting some top-four class times and improving to 49th overall, despite losing further time when she caught but was unable to pass a slower car ahead.

“The place where the others still had edge on me was through hairpin bends,” she said. “There is quite a technique involved in getting tarmac hairpins just right, which they have mastered in years of rallying on roads like this in Europe.”

The third leg of the rally was the shortest, comprising just four stages, but had a nasty sting in the tail for Gilmour.

“A driveshaft broke on a tight junction on the last stage,” she explained. “We have had to drive really slowly on the road section just to get to the finish ceremony.  On the previous two stages we had a puncture on each one.  So apart from the first stage of the day it was hard work!”

The broken driveshaft cost her over eight minutes, and cost her at least four places in the final standings for the event.

Gilmour has no let-up in their European rallying programme following the German event: the next round of the world series, the Rally of Finland, starts this Friday, August 18. She will be joining fellow competitors in the pre-event reconnaissance from Tuesday, August 15.

“Germany probably isn’t the most suited event to the Fiesta STs but the flowing stages in Finland should be much better. I can’t wait,” she said.

Gilmour will return home immediately after the Finnish event to rejoin the Vantage Subaru Rally Team for the Rally of Wairarapa, which is the penultimate round of the New Zealand championship.

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